Is addiction a disease? Can it be uprooted with a medical treatment?
Although drug and alcohol addictions are classified as psychiatric diseases by the Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, science has never been able to find the cause of addiction merely in the brain. Indeed, addictions, like all moral failures are illnesses of the soul. As fallen humanity, we all suffer from a variety of mental illnesses. The only healthy mind is the mind of Christ, and until we are fully transformed to His image, we suffer from some manifestation of our fallenness in our thoughts and in our hearts, affecting our behaviors, our characters, and our life decisions.
According to Marc Lewis, a neuroscientist, professor of developmental psychology, and a former addict himself, “Addiction is not a disease. It’s simply a nasty habit.” Defenders of the disease model have one talking point that they keep publicizing: “Addiction changes the structure of the brain.” Unfortunately, this easily convinces the “non-specialists” that addiction must be a brain disease. However, they forget to explain further that the brain is a plastic organ. It changes constantly as life events happen. It changes when one ages. It changes when we learn a new language, a new technique, or learn to play a new musical instrument. It changes with deep love and joy, and with overwhelming fears and despair. It changes after a traumatic experience, or after falling in love. It changes when we formulate new beliefs in our mind. It changes with spiritual experiences, and yes, it changes when we habitually repeat something over and over such that we become addicted to it. The brain changes are not the cause of our addictions any more than they are the cause of us falling in love. It is important to distinguish between causation and correlation.
I invite you to look at this blog post by Kyle Smith who addresses many of these issues in much greater details.